Farfield and Nearfield in Digital Audio Production
written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/22/2010
Learn how the farfield and nearfield audio positions work in audio post-production.
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Audio post-production in not universal since the way that audio is listened to is not universal. The position of speakers and audio equipment is always different in different set ups, and this requires the audio mixer to adjust audio according to how they think that audio may be listed to. To do this the audio post-production mixer will mix their audio in either farfield or nearfield audio perspectives.
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The farfield audio perspective is one where the person editing the audio once it comes from the field recorder, or just listening to the audio once it is released, is sitting around ten feet away from the speakers. This farfield position is usually considered to be representative of the average way that people listen to audio. For example, the speakers that are associated with the television are usually around ten feet from where people are seated. When mixing according to farfield sound it is set so that it will be best when listened to in this situation, but the audio mixer still needs to consider how that sound experience will be in a different audio equipment set up and listening position.
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Nearfield audio, inversely, presents a much shorter distance from the speaker location and the assumed position of the listener or mixer. What this does is actually takes the dynamics of the room out of the listening process so you can hear exactly what is being generated from the speakers in an unadulterated way. The nearfield audio position is meant to give direct sound, and this way you can listen for any type of early changes or refractions. The idea of the nearfield audio position is to place the mixer around five feet from two speakers that are spaced out from each other. This is to create a triangle between the audio mixer and the speakers. The nearfield audio position is a much more controlled situation where you can really hear what is coming from the device. You are also going to need to make sure that you have very accurate speakers for this situation as clarity is the main reason to sit in the nearfield position. Without this is will lose much of its value in the audio mixing process. Try to balance out just two very adequate speakers so you can maintain the triangle positioning.
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Both the farfield audio and nearfield audio positions are important for monitoring during true audio mixing. You may have to go back and forth between nearfield and farfield positions, which is a good way to hear what is happening. You must know exactly what the sound is like when close up, as well as what it will sound like in a more open space where the environment can initiate changes. The idea for an audio mixer and producer is to create audio that will be heard by the consumer the same way as it sounds when you are mixing it. This is not going to be perfect as you cannot always anticipate the way that different people listen to music and you cannot accommodate all situations perfectly. This is especially true after different types of compression takes place and alters the audio tracks.